Christmas Treats and an Update

My husband is a web developing genius, so he moved my site here. He also suggested maybe it’s time to give an update on how I’m doing.

I’ve had kind of a rough six weeks or so. I mentioned in a previous post that back in August or September my GI doc had been very impressed overall with my progress, but wanted me back on antibiotics briefly before removing my final drain. When I went to my follow-up appointment (when my last drain was supposed to be removed) and reported that I still felt some swelling and occasional fever, he ordered an MRI. The results were a little disappointing. No new abscesses or fistula tracts were found (which is the good news), but the bad news was that the main fistula tract was still pretty giant. So, I had another surgery (#6!) and this time my surgeon opened the fistula all the way so that it could drain and hopefully close up with healthy tissue.

When I went into this last surgery, I thought it would be like my previous ones–three or four days down and then a slow return to normal. But the incision was much bigger than any of my previous ones. Poor Chris (who might as well be a nurse in addition to a web developer by now) had to pack the incision with clean gauze several times a day for a few weeks. It was not fun for either of us. After two weeks I was still very uncomfortable and unable to move around too much. Now it’s been almost three weeks and I’m finally starting to feel well enough (and painkiller free enough!) to get out of the house a little.

I’m going to start a new medication to see if it gives me better results and gets that last bit of healing under way. I also started some new supplements–a probiotic, vitamin D, and folic acid–at the suggestion of another doctor after she ran some blood tests and found that I was extremely deficient in some vitamins, in spite of all that I do to eat a really nutrient-dense diet that should provide plenty of these and other vitamins. Needless to say, all this news was not what I had been hoping for. But, my surgeon and GI doc both said that we are still moving in the right direction, just maybe not as quickly as we might hope. So I’m doing my best to focus on that.

Anyway, this has given me a good excuse to watch Every. Single. Christmas. Movie. Ever. I’ve also gotten to spend lots of time admiring our tree and cuddling our greyhound. And finally this weekend I felt well enough to do a little Christmas baking! This way I can bring my own desserts to share to Christmas festivities and that might help me keep my paws out of all the goodies I shouldn’t be eating right now. I thought I would share a couple of recipes so that you can treat yourself or a loved one with dietary restrictions as well.

The orange ginger spice cookies are fragrant, soft, and chewy, even after they cool down. The peanut butter cups are rich–just as they should be. Also pictured are the thumbprint cookies from Danielle Walker’s ebook Joyful, which you can get as a Kindle version for only $1.99. I made them just as instructed and they are both pretty and tasty! The ginger cookies and thumbprint cookies are both paleo and SCD legal. The peanut butter cups are all around a little illegal. But all three are grain-free (and by default gluten-free) as well as free of refined sugars. The peanut butter cups are egg free and dairy free. Both the peanut butter cups and the ginger cookies can be made nut-free if you substitute sunflower seed butter for the nut butters.

Here is the process for assembling the peanut butter cups: a little chocolate, a little peanut butter, a little more chocolate!

P1000931 P1000933 P1000935

Here is the finished product. Yummmm.

P1000937

Santa could appreciate this plate, even if he has IBD or has gone paleo since last year!

P1000938 P1000940

Orange Ginger Spice Cookies Ingredients (yield 1.5 dozen)

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup plain, smooth almond butter
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • juice of 1 orange
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon orange zest

Orange Ginger Spice Cookies Method

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  • Combine butter, almond butter, honey, egg, vanilla extract, and orange zest in a large bowl. Use a hand or stand mixer and mix until smooth.
  • Add all remaining ingredients and mix well.
  • Drop batter by spoonfuls onto parchment paper. Bake 12-14 minutes. Cool on cooling rack.

Homemade Peanut Butter Cups Ingredients* (yield 10-12 cups, depending on chocolate to pb ratio)

  • 4 ounces 100% cacao chocolate (unsweetened; the only ingredient listed should be cacao)
  • 1/3 cup organic, smooth peanut butter (the only ingredient listed should be peanuts)
  • 1/8 cup coconut flour
  • 6 tablespoons honey, divided
  • 3 teaspoons palm or coconut oil
  • 3/4 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, plus a dash more

Homemade Peanut Butter Cups Method

  • First make the peanut butter filling. Combine the peanut butter, 2 tablespoons honey, coconut flour, and sea salt. Use a hand mixer to stir until well combined. Divide into 10-12 balls by rolling between your palms, and then flatten a little into discs.
  • To make the chocolate, combine chocolate and oil in a heatproof bowl. Set on top of a saucepan with about 1 inch of simmering water in it. Stir until melted.
  • Remove from heat and add in remaining 4 tablespoons honey and vanilla. Stir until smooth.
  • Spoon a little chocolate in the bottom of a silicone cupcake liner and swirl to coat the bottom and up the sides just a bit. Then drop in one disc of peanut butter. Top with more chocolate to cover and a pinch of sea salt.
  • Refrigerate several hours, until set. Gently peel off the silicone liner. Store in the fridge.

*The cocoa makes these not 100% SCD legal but in my estimation these are still much better than most standard treats. To make them paleo compliant, just switch out the peanut butter with sunflower seed butter or your favorite nut butter.

Advertisements

Apple Spice Probiotic Smoothie

I haven’t blogged in a while primarily because I recently got both of Danielle Walker’s fabulous cookbooks and I’ve been cooking everything in them. I’ve been eating lots of good food, but none of it has really been original. If you are paleo or SCD, I can’t recommend her cookbooks enough. Her recipes have never failed us!

However, all of our feasting came to an abrupt halt when my GI doctor put me on a round of hefty antibiotics because he was worried I was forming a new abscess. While he was encouraged by my progress over all, ramping up medication always feels like a bit of a failure on my part. It’s easy for me to start thinking, “did this happen because I let myself get too stressed,” or, “if I hadn’t eaten out that one time a couple weeks ago, would I be feeling better today?” I’ve been learning about meditation and mindfulness, because it is one of the things that people with chronic illness report as being most helpful to them, and I’ve been reading about just how self-destructive these kinds of thoughts are. It is better to react to setbacks with self-compassion and equanimity since we can never know for sure if there was anything we could have done to alter the outcome, and allowing negative and stressful thoughts to control us only further exacerbates both physical symptoms and mental suffering. So I’ve been working on that during this round of treatment.

Anyway, the antibiotics make me so nauseous I can’t even stand to look at most food–much less cook it and eat it. Plus, my GI doc stressed the importance of probiotics while I was on the antibiotics, so I started drinking most of my meals instead. I’ve been making all kinds of smoothies, often times with some hidden veggies or a raw pasteurized egg blended in so it makes a better meal replacement, but the following recipe is my absolute favorite–light and easy on the tummy, and it even helps those of us who are still dealing with summer weather get into the fall spirit. It tastes way better than a pumpkin spice latte when the AC is still running!

rsz_p1000860 (2)

Apple Spice Probiotic Smoothie Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup SCD legal yogurt
  • 1/2 cup unfiltered apple juice
  • about 8 ice cubes
  • 1 cup frozen banana chunks
  • 1 tablespoon plain almond butter (optional; it makes the smoothie richer and adds some good fats and a little protein)
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Apple Spice Probiotic Smoothie Ingredients

  • Place all ingredients in a blender and blend! If it’s too thin, add a few more chunks of banana or ice cubes. If it’s too thick, add apple juice until it blends easily. This makes one large meal-sized serving, or two generous snack-sized portions.

 

Nut Butter Coconut Chocolate Cups

Ok, here’s the thing. Technically chocolate, even raw cacao, is not SCD legal. BUT I can’t find a very good reason for this. One potential reason is that it is potentially addictive (duh, but so is coffee–much more so, actually–and it is allowed with caveats) and another is that cacao is a chemically complex food that might contain trace amounts of illegal carbohydrates (sucrose, to be specific), as well as compounds that aid in the reproduction of viruses and suppress the immune system.

On the other hand, there is tons of solid information coming out about how nutritious cacao can be. One ounce of cocoa contains nearly a quarter of the recommended daily value of iron, 35 % RDV of magnesium, and over 50% RDV of copper and manganese. It’s a good source of protein, fiber, and numerous essential minerals–many of which are chronically deficient in IBD sufferers. Additionally, cocoa is very high in antioxidants, which protect against aging, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and even inflammation. Consumption of cacao is allowed–and even encouraged–in some other gut restorative diets such as GAPS and paleo. So, I’m sorry, Elaine, but you’ll have to provide me with a better argument to get me to give up cocoa.

Not all chocolate is created equal, however. Fermenting and processing can significantly reduce the antioxidants available in chocolate, and other ingredients usually used to make chocolate–such as sugars, milk, and certain preservatives–are (convincingly) problematic for people with IBD. If you are going to indulge in chocolate, it’s so much better for you to make your own so that you can control your ingredients. It can take a little hunting to track down the ingredients you need, but once you acquire them they should last for a good amount of time. I use this cacao powder, which is raw and only partially fermented to preserve as many antioxidants as possible. This is my source of cocoa butter. I hear you can buy it at Whole Foods, but I don’t go to Whole Foods regularly, and anyway the wafer form is super easy to measure.

I got the basic chocolate recipe from this site, but my husband is addicted to these delicious coconut-covered almond chocolates from Sprouts and I was inspired by them, along with a glut of raw hazelnuts, to come up with a new filling. If you don’t want to make your own nut butter filling, you can also use a prepared one from the store (just check the ingredients). I have also made these with a layer of almond butter and a layer of coconut butter, and they are quite tasty.

Once you’ve roasted the nuts, turn them out into a clean kitchen towel and wrap them up to steam for a few minutes.p1000654

p1000655

Peel them as well as you can but don’t worry about some skins sticking around.p1000657

Here is what the butter should look like once well combined and processed.p1000658

Use a double boiler to melt your chocolate and honey. Or, you know, just a bowl on top of a pot. Whatever.p1000659

Allmmooooost melted.p1000661

Stir into the cacao and vanilla and keep stirring until very smooth. I like to do this in a measuring cup so it’s easy to pour.p1000662

Pour in a bit of chocolate.p1000664

Then your filling.p1000665

Then more chocolate. Don’t worry about perfection. You can remove extra chocolate once the candies are set.p1000666

Cover and refrigerate until set.p1000667

Then just pop them out of the mold and enjoy!p1000669p1000670

Nut Butter Coconut Chocolate Cups Ingredients (Makes about 15 candies, plus a few tablespoons left over; see note at bottom for dealing with leftovers)

  • 3/4 cups raw hazelnuts, or other raw nuts of choice
  • 2-3 tablespoons coconut butter
  • generous pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup cacao powder
  • 1/2 cup cocoa butter
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Roast raw hazelnuts in a baking pan for 15-20 minutes, until fragrant and browned but not burned. Pour into a clean kitchen towel and let steam for a few minutes. When cool enough to handle, rub together in the towel or between your hands to remove most of the peels. Don’t worry if you can’t get all of them off.
  • Place hazelnuts, coconut butter, and salt in food processor and process until smooth. If the nut butter is not smooth enough for your taste, keep adding coconut butter or coconut oil until you achieve the desired consistency. I keep mine quite thick so that it holds together better. Taste and add more salt if desired. I like mine a bit salty to contrast with the sweet chocolate.
  • Heat about 1 inch of water in the bottom part of a double boiler over medium-low heat. Add in the honey and cocoa butter and stir until melted.
  • Combine honey and cocoa butter with cacao powder and vanilla extract. Be very careful not to get any water in the mixture at this point or else it can make your chocolate grainy. Taste and adjust to your liking by adding more honey or more cacao.
  • Pour a thin layer of chocolate into the bottom of a silicone chocolate mold (like this one)*. Spoon in a layer of the nut butter. Then top off again with another layer of chocolate. Cover the mold with parchment paper and refrigerate until set.
  • Pop out of the molds and store in refrigerator. Consume within 7 days for best taste and texture (but I bet they won’t last that long!).

*Note: if you don’t have a chocolate mold and don’t want to buy one, just linea glass dish or rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper and pour half the chocolate on top. Then, top with the hazelnut butter, and then the other half of the chocolate. Swirl with a knife. Once it has hardened a bit in the refrigerator, cut into pieces and peel off parchment paper. I usually have a bit of chocolate and hazelnut butter left over, anyway, and this is how I avoid waste!